[identity profile] stormymood.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] arashi_exchange
A piece of rainbow for [livejournal.com profile] gurajiorasu Part 7


The succeeding hours pass in a blur. Jun has no idea where he found the strength to order Nino to pick him up. Nino’s automatic answer was no, but Jun reasoned that he’s currently alone in Minakami, and if whoever shot Sho finds out where he is, he’ll probably die tonight.

Aiba and Nino arrive in two hours, and Jun is already waiting in the porch by then. He spent the past hour sending messages to Ohno, who is yet to respond to any of them.

“Is he alive?” Jun asks at the sight of Nino.

Nino shakes his head. “I don’t know.”

“Where is he?” Jun feels responsible, and if Sho dies, it’s another person dying because of him. They almost got Aiba. Did they have to get Sho too?

Another shake of Nino’s head. “I only received one message from Ohno-san, and it’s the same news I delivered to you.”

Jun climbs on to the backseat and keeps his eyes out the window. He allows himself one lingering glance to the villa before they pull away. It’s been his house for nearly a month. Nearly a month and he’s already attached to it, wondering if he’ll ever see it again.

And what about Sho, comes the unwelcome, alarming thought. Will I ever see him again?

Guilt floods through him and he’s grateful that Nino and Aiba give him privacy by rolling the window up. His knuckles have this leftover sting from all the punches he delivered using them, but not even that kind of hurt can compensate for how he feels.

He is restless, nervously tapping his fingers against his thigh. He wishes he has a cigarette; he knows Nino always brings a pack with him, but asking to bum one would require him to lower the privacy window, and he doesn’t want Nino and Aiba to see him shaken. They thankfully didn’t ask what happened—perhaps sensing that Jun has no wishes to talk about it and respecting his choice to keep to himself until they reach the city.

Should they have left the house? Jun doesn’t know. He’s going back to the fray, and it’s the one thing he’s wanted since he began hiding away in the mountains. But the thought doesn’t make him overjoyed or thrilled. It leaves him second-guessing and without a pedestal to depend on for support. It’s festers in him like leprosy, eating the fraying edges until he’s left with nothing.

Jun doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore. He thought he knew perfectly well what his return to the city would mean, but now he’s sitting in the back of a car and unaware everything else occurring around him. There might be music playing or Aiba and Nino conversing, but he hears nothing except the gnawing, persistent blame that sounds too much like the truth.

This is all his fault. He’s always been emotionally dependent, always a slave to his feelings and what they dictate. Lately, that impulse to listen and follow what they say has led to more bad than good, created more damage that might leave him weakened and scarred.

If Sho is dead...no, he can’t entertain that thought. Jun won’t forgive himself if Sho died and his last memory of Sho is Sho’s blood on the floor, Sho’s lip split because of his fist, and Sho’s choice not to fight back. Sho can’t die; Jun won’t forgive him either if he does.

Sho can’t leave him alone in this. If Sho wants him to survive so badly, then Sho acknowledges the unspoken truth that Jun can’t do it on his own.

He pounds on his temples with the heels of his palms, grinds until he can feel something throb as a reaction. It’s so noisy. His head won’t give him peace. It’s terribly crowded again, smothering him with thoughts, impressions, and—heaven forbid,—visions. It all replays in his head: the intensity in Sho’s eyes as he accepted all the accusations Jun hurled his way, the resigned look on his round face as he denied everything with a single statement.

Jun doesn’t know what apology or remorse feel like; he never gave it. His father got nothing from him despite his rebellious tendencies, disrespect, and utter hatred for the old man’s methods. His arguments with Nino never required him saying he’s sorry; Nino always knew how to maneuver around him.

But there’s something that’s consuming him and it’s not hate; Jun is all too aware how that manifests. He allowed it in during the last few hours he spend in the villa. The desire to destroy something is still present in him, still caused by the idea of Sho leaving him, just...not in the same sense as it was before.

I won’t forgive him, Jun thinks resolutely, cradling his skull as his mind keeps tormenting him about his rashness and stubbornness. If he dies, I won’t forgive him.

Time passes slowly, with the voices inside his head growing louder and more sinister as he entertains them. Jun never feels alone; he has these harmful thoughts of paranoia to haunt him even when he thinks he can find peace. There’s no escaping them; they are a part of him. An indispensable, irreparably flaking part of him that makes him who he is.

There’s no awareness on how long it takes him to realize that the car has stopped moving. He reaches out to lower the privacy window with a shaking hand, and neither Nino nor Aiba look at him.

Seeing that they won’t be the first one to talk, Jun swallows first to get some words out. His throat feels parched and dry, aching like the rest of his insides. “Any word?”

“We’re outside your apartment. I’ve got men posted and snipers in the surrounding buildings. You will be safe; Aiba-shi will stay with you until I find answers.” Nino inclines his head, perhaps in apology. “Ohno-san hasn’t responded to any of my messages. I will have to find out for myself what happened.”

Jun wants to laugh. He finally made it out of Minakami at the price of his sanity, and for what? To end in another safehouse, only that this one is more familiar because it’s his. It should feel like home, but Jun has no concrete concept of such a place. He never truly belonged anywhere.

He doesn’t say a word, which Nino takes as an agreement, no matter how begrudging or reluctant it may seem.

“I will inform you as soon as I have anything,” Nino assures him. Unlike Jun, Nino sounds like he knows what he’s doing. Jun is envious of this indication of Nino’s stability. “I assume they’re keeping quiet regarding his survival because it’s more advantageous to them if everyone thinks he’s dead.”

Nino doesn’t say it, but Jun hears the unspoken ‘if he survived’. He can’t even roll the words on his tongue; it feels like washing his mouth with corrosive acid, burning the soft tissues there and rendering him dysfunctional.

The next time Jun comes to, he’s inside his apartment, and he only realizes it because Aiba is preparing tea for him and it’s the type he likes—Earl Grey. He remains in the couch seeing and registering nothing save for the smell of bergamot, the steam emitted by the cup Aiba presses into his hands.

“We fought,” Jun says, not knowing what made him talk. Maybe it’s the tea. Maybe it’s the sight of Aiba actually making it out alive, another person he could’ve lost but didn’t. Perhaps it’s his unacknowledged wish that Sho turns out like Aiba.

Aiba’s gaze falls to his split knuckles, then he stands. “I should tend to those.”

Jun doesn’t protest, hears Aiba shuffling inside his bathroom for supplies. When Aiba takes the teacup from him and extends his fingers, he doesn’t flinch or twitch away from the momentary pain. Aiba applies antiseptic on each cut, his touches gentle, eyes becoming pools of concentration.

“He didn’t fight back,” he tells Aiba, despite knowing it needs no saying. His face doesn’t bear cuts like his knuckles do. “Not physically. Verbally, yes. Then he took the car and left me alone.”

Aiba opts for band-aids to cover his self-inflicted wounds. He uses a different one depending on the size of the cut, and when he’s done, he moves to Jun’s other hand.

“I shouldn’t have—” is all Jun gets out next, suddenly not knowing how to proceed.

Aiba doesn’t look at him when he asks, “Are you sorry?”

For someone who feels so much, that one remains alien to Jun. “I don’t know.”

Aiba finishes in patching him up, and Sho’s accusation comes back. He always relied on someone else to fix whatever he ruined, didn’t he? Sho was right. He’s only good at fucking things up. Destruction is the one thing he’s incredibly well-versed at. Creation and rebuilding are both foreign concepts to him.

There’s a cup of hot tea handed to him. “Drink,” is all Aiba says, standing to wash and return the supplies he used back to the med kit.

Jun obeys, silently hoping the tea is poisoned so everything ends here. His wish isn’t granted, but the sting he feels as the hot liquid washes down his parched throat will suffice as an adequate compensation. He drinks more despite the smooth muscles of his neck rebelling, until he finishes the tea in three gulps.

His phone, which is on the table in front of him, vibrates, and Jun nearly drops the teacup in his haste to pick it up when he sees Nino’s text.

He’s alive, the text reads. Then his phone beeps once more with another text. They patched him up. Bullet got his side, required stitches.

He tries to reply, but his hands are shaking too much. Something is washing over him—relief, elation, gratitude, maybe—, but Jun doesn’t spare the time to ponder on it. He opts to call Nino, and Nino picks up after five or six rings.

“Where is he?” Jun asks, hoping his voice is at least not as unreliable as his fingers. He meets Aiba’s sympathetic eyes across the room, exchanges a nod to confirm things.

“In a clinic managed by a doctor he’s known all his life,” Nino says, “or so Ohno-san tells me. They can’t bring him to a hospital; Ohno-san fears whoever shot him will come back for more, seeing as they didn’t succeed in killing him.”

“They can’t bring him back to his house,” Jun says immediately. “He’s almost been killed there.” He remembers the dart and the sniper bullet. A bullet actually got Sho tonight, just not in the place that would lead to instant death.

“Ohno-san doesn’t know where else to bring him. For all intents and purposes, he’s dead,” Nino informs him, voice steady and calm while Jun’s heart and mind race as if in sync with his consternation. “Took him a while to answer me. I think a part of him didn’t want to inform us.”

Jun can’t fault Ohno for that. Ohno probably hates him now, thinking it’s all because of him that Sho left the one place where he was safe.

Ohno wouldn’t be wrong.

“Is he awake?” Jun asks, and he hopes he’s not imagining things when he hears Nino let out a tiny laugh.

“Why do you think Ohno-san picked up, Jun-kun?” Another breathless, mirthless laugh. “He said Sakurai-san ordered him to do it. I’m on my way to the clinic, as per Sakurai-san’s instructions. Do you have any?”

Jun doesn’t think twice nor deliberate on what he’s going to say.

“If he’s stable enough to be moved,” he says, each syllable uttered with conviction to the best of his ability, “bring him here.”

--

Jun requests Aiba to double-check the security around them, which Aiba does without question. If Nino really thought this through, then the men he put in every station are Jun’s very best. Right now, Jun is confident that his apartment is the most guarded place in the city. No fool is going to make an attempt on him tonight.

Nino doesn’t confirm anything with him, but an hour or so later, Jun receives a quick text that said on the way back. It reveals nothing, so Jun doesn’t dare hope. Sho has every right to refuse his offer after what happened, and it’s obvious that Ohno would have reservations in regards to Jun’s proposal, despite not having much choice.

Aiba manages to convince him to change his clothes to something more comfortable. He’s not in his suit, but his cotton trousers have streaks of blood in them thanks to the glass shards he kneeled on. The offer to prepare his bath, he refuses. Aiba is his chauffeur and closest bodyguard, not his housekeeper and babysitter.

He’s changed into a loose pair of silken pajamas when he sees Aiba opening his front door, Nino immediately entering and toeing off his shoes at the genkan.

“He didn’t agree,” Nino says, but Jun catches unfamiliar voices and sees shadows in the corridor, “not immediately. But the drugs kicked in, so he fell asleep, and after that, I only had to convince Ohno-san.”

Something tells Jun that Ohno had to be convinced in ways that Nino will never disclose. He doesn’t pry, instead looks past Nino to see a couple of men—one of which Jun recognizes as Koyama—carefully carrying Sho’s unconscious body inside. Nino steps to the side and leads them to Jun’s bedroom without confirming it with Jun, but it’s not like there’s any other place to put Sho in.

Jun is about to follow, but then Ohno enters the apartment with a quiet “apologies for the intrusion,” uttered as he toes off his shoes.

Ohno is shorter than him, so the man has to look up a little to meet Jun’s eyes. Jun can’t tell what he’s thinking. There seems to be protectiveness and anger there, but there’s also understanding. Jun wonders what Nino did to convince this one.

“It missed his liver,” Ohno says, pertaining to the bullet. “But still went through him, so the stitches took some time to finish. He is restricted from doing anything strenuous and is confined to a liquid diet.” Ohno tilts his head. “May I visit him while he remains here?”

“You may stay,” Jun offers instead. His place is big enough, and Jun knows Ohno is the most suited man to take care of Sho, being the one who knows him the longest. Ohno should stay as long as Sho is here.

Ohno looks around, then past Jun’s shoulders. “I can sleep fine on the couch.”

Jun doesn’t have a guest room on account of never having guests who stay the night, but he has a spacious living room and a pullout couch that can function as a bed.

“Mattsun,” Aiba says, appearing from the kitchen—he seems to be in the middle of preparing Jun’s dinner, if that apron he’s currently wearing should indicate anything. “Nino forgot to tell you, but I’m supposed to remain here too. Nino doesn’t want to leave you alone.”

Jun darts a questioning glance at Ohno, who smiles and faces Aiba before bowing. “I hope you don’t mind sharing the couch with me.”

Aiba smiles, wipes his hands on his apron before offering a hand to Ohno. “Not at all. Nice to meet you, Ohno-san. I’m Aiba Masaki.”

“I know,” Ohno says, shaking Aiba’s hand. “Nino talks about you a lot.”

Jun doesn’t miss the way Ohno said ‘Nino’, like he’s been calling Jun’s right-hand man like that for a long time.

“I’ll have Nino get the spare blankets and futon,” Jun says, and he receives Aiba’s unwavering smile and Ohno’s nod of thanks.

“Mind helping me in the kitchen, Ohno-san? You can prepare something Sakurai-san can eat,” Aiba says with his usual air of friendliness, and the only sign of Ohno’s agreement is the bow he gives Jun as he excuses himself.

Sho’s men have moved out of his apartment while they talked about Ohno’s sleeping arrangements, and Jun enters his bedroom to find Nino typing furiously on his phone, leaning against the closet.

“Anything I need to know?” Jun asks, unable to take his eyes off Sho’s sleeping form lying on the center of the mattress, the sheets rising up to his navel. His breathing is shallow but it’s enough; he’s alive and he’s here, and Jun has seen him again.

Nino waves his hand in dismissal, and Jun only catches it in his periphery. He takes a seat on the edge of the bed, resisting the urge to reach out and feel Sho for himself.

“Just clarifying the rotation of guards in this place.” Nino tucks his phone away and runs a hand through his hair. He looks towards the direction of the door. “You let Ohno-san stay over?”

Jun inclines his head in affirmation. “You can call him however you call him when it’s just the two of you,” he says. “He calls you Nino.”

“Everybody does,” Nino says, and it’s Jun’s confirmation that this is something Nino doesn’t want to talk about. Perhaps Jun is not the only one who found someone in the past month. “Save for that guy on your bed who keeps calling me Ninomiya.”

Jun lets out a small laugh at that. Sho calls Nino like that because he’s a little jealous of Nino’s role in Jun’s life. It’s one of those things staying in that villa taught Jun. “He’s not the most compliant of persons.”

Nino makes his way out, hand already on the doorknob. “That’s a trait he shares with you.”

Jun hears Nino clicking the lock before the door is shut, and he can hear muffled conversation outside.

Jun sighs, and it’s as if something heavy lifts off his shoulders. Half of Sho’s trunk is wrapped in bandages, and instead of a yukata, he’s in scrubs minus the top. Maybe Sho’s doctor friend loaned it to him. Jun wants to press for details, ask how Sho got shot and where, but he’s never felt exhaustion like this. All he wants to do is to collapse beside Sho, feel him breathing under his fingers, perhaps match their respiration together, pretend they have all the time in the world and Sho is just sleeping, like those many nights they spent together in the mountains.

If Jun can have one thing in the world, right now, he’d ask for the ability to freeze time so he can remain in this comfortable bubble protected by the people he trusts. If he can, he’d stay here and not think of leaving, if it means that no one else dies because of him.

He brushes away the strands falling over Sho’s eyes, smiles when Sho’s face scrunches a little as a reaction.

Jun rises from the bed and heads for the door, opening it to the sight of Nino laughing at one of Aiba’s jokes, Ohno also unable to hold off a chuckle of his own.

They all turn to face him, and Jun’s about to open his mouth when Nino holds up a finger in warning.

“Don’t. We can talk about the details tomorrow.” Nino raises an eyebrow at him. “Honestly, Jun-kun, you look like shit. You weren’t the one shot, but anyone would think it’s you. Go back to that room. We’ll bring food when it’s ready.” Nino casts a sideways glance at Aiba. “Assuming what Aiba-shi makes is fit for human consumption, that is.”

“Hey,” Aiba protests, while Ohno just laughs. Aiba looks at Jun and salutes. “It’s going to take a while, Mattsun, sorry about that. But Nino’s right.”

“That I look like shit?” Jun asks, a small smile playing on his lips.

Aiba makes a zipping motion over his mouth, and Jun shakes his head as he laughs before he heads back inside his room.

“Get some rest!” Nino calls out, like he’s reprimanding Jun for thinking of doing otherwise, and Jun doesn’t reply, but he does give Nino a thumbs up over his shoulder before closing the door.

He allows himself a couple of seconds to evaluate his choices, but his body is doing the decision-making for him. Exhaustion is creeping up like phantom fingers touching his insides and leaving each nerve sensitive. He’s so tired his entire body is feeling it, begging him to do as Nino asked.

Jun sits on the bed once more, only that this time he permits himself to be closer to Sho, back touching Sho’s bare arm. Sho is still asleep, head turned sideways in the other direction, and Jun twists on his trunk so he can use one hand to cup Sho’s face and turn it towards him.

He’s so warm under Jun’s shaky, cold touch. Never mind the fact that he nearly died; he surely doesn’t feel like he’s dying now. Jun strokes Sho’s cheek with thumb, the edges of the stubble forming above his lips a little rough to the touch.

Sho’s mouth twitches, and Jun freezes, but Sho doesn’t open his eyes.

Jun lowers himself so he has his forehead touching Sho’s, Sho’s body heat transferring to him.

“Don’t wake up,” Jun finds himself whispering in the space between them. “Just...not yet. Let me have this. Just this, for a while.”

Let me stay here, he wants to say, but he chalks it up despite Sho not hearing him at all. Let this be mine, something I can keep, something they can’t take away from me.

Something that can’t be carried away, he thinks.

Sho lets out a sigh, like he’s dreaming of something pleasant, and Jun shuts his eyes, contents himself with letting his breaths fall in sync with Sho’s.

Jun allows himself to pretend, for once.

That there’s nothing out there and they’re safe.

--

Jun grants himself a few naps beside Sho, waking up once in a while to check if Sho’s awake and needs anything. Sho’s not allowed to move much, but Jun intends to restrict any kind of movement at all, save for Sho heading to the toilet on his own.

The fourth time he opens his eyes, he finds Sho watching him, head turned to face him. Sho blinks, and Jun rubs at his eyes to be rid of the sleepiness. It’s still dark and his apartment is quiet, the hum of the air conditioning unit the only thing they can hear.

“I would assume this isn’t a hospital,” Sho mumbles, voice thick and scratchy from disuse.

Jun immediately sits up to reach for the pitcher of water Aiba left on his nightstand along with a bowl of chawan mushi Ohno supposedly made for Sho. He pours water in one glass and moves to help Sho sit up, doesn’t comment on the groan Sho makes.

He offers Sho the glass of water who takes it with a nod of thanks.

“This is my place,” Jun says, to answer what Sho said earlier.

Sho wipes a trail of water that ran down the side of his mouth with the back of his hand, wincing when he makes contact with the cut on his lip. The one Jun put there himself. “I was under the impression I was no longer welcome to be anywhere near you.”

It hits Jun harder than he thought it would. He takes the empty glass and places it back on the nightstand after Sho shakes his head at his wordless offer for more.

“How’s your side?” he asks instead, not wanting to address the feel of his chest constricting at Sho’s statement.

“Can’t feel it,” Sho says, but he hisses when he touches it; apparently it’s still too sensitive. “Can’t feel it unless I touch it.”

Jun sneaks a glance at it, sees that the blood is beginning to soak up the bandages. Ohno had someone purchase bandages earlier, and rolls of it can be found on Jun’s nightstand.

“I think it’s time to change your bandages,” Jun says, reaching out for a fresh roll.

Sho’s eyebrow is quirked when Jun looks at him once more. “Are you offering?”

Jun purses his lips and looks at his hands. “If you’ll let me,” he says quietly.

He hears something close to a laugh escape from Sho, albeit weak. “There’s hardly anything I won’t let you do,” Sho mutters.

“Except go back here,” Jun points out, hands already undoing the clasp that holds the wrappings around Sho’s trunk. He steadies his fingers, not wanting Sho to feel how scared he was and how that fear is yet to leave him.

“But here we are anyway,” Sho says. “You got what you wanted, in the end.”

There’s a break in Sho’s tattoo, created by the bullet going through him. A portion of the god’s leg is now missing, replaced by damaged skin. The hole itself is plugged, but that doesn’t stop it from blood from oozing out little by little.

Jun cleans off the wound first, taking care not to aggravate the injury. It doesn’t bleed as much as it should, so perhaps the one who patched Sho up is used to these kinds of trauma patients. He rolls the fresh bandage around Sho’s waist when he’s done with removing the caked, crusted blood.

“I never wanted you to get shot,” Jun retorts weakly, remembering he is yet to contribute to the conversation they’re having.

Sho takes the clasps from him and locks the edges of the bandages himself. “I never said you did.” Sho peers up at him when he starts gathering the stained wrappings to dispose of. “How are you feeling?”

The question surprises Jun. He’s unharmed; Sho is the one with a bleeding side from a bullet, the origin of which is still unknown. “I’m fine,” he says, unable to hide the confusion in his voice.

“You don’t appear like it. Not to me.”

Jun turns away, suddenly conscious of Sho’s scrutiny. He refuses to believe he is that transparent, that his emotions are all over the place that Sho can read through them, through him, with accuracy. Did he open himself that much? Since when?

He stands and heads for the trash bin, disposing the soaked bandages there. He pointedly doesn’t look at Sho, instead picks up the bowl of chawan mushi Ohno made and hands it to the man on his bed without so much a glance.

“Ohno-san made this for you,” he explains. “He’s right outside with Masaki, because Nino doesn’t want to leave me alone and Ohno-san doesn’t want to leave you alone. I think we have two worriers for right-hand men.”

Sho takes the bowl from him, their fingers brushing. “Jun,” Sho says, and Jun sits on the edge of the bed with his back turned to Sho. “Jun, look at me.”

Jun remembers that saying, that a part of his soul can be revealed if he meets Sho’s eyes. It can leave him exposed, and with Sho knowing exactly where to look, Jun can’t hide a thing from him.

The plea he can hear from Sho’s voice is what makes him turn. “You didn’t know,” Sho tells him, patient and understanding. “You had no idea this would happen.”

“But you did,” Jun mutters, bottom lip trembling. “You did, that’s why you were so against coming back in the first place.” He can’t help looking at Sho’s side. What if it didn’t hit that part of him? What if it pierced something vital? Would they be having this conversation?

“I was against the idea of returning not because I was scared for myself,” Sho says, mixing the chawan mushi with a spoon, his eyes on his hands and their movements. He leaves the other part unsaid, but it’s enough because it doesn’t need saying.

Jun sticks to silence as Sho eats, the clink of the spoon against the bowl the only sound between them. When Sho’s done, Jun takes the bowl from him to bring it to the kitchen sink.

He’s almost out of the door when he hears Sho’s voice calling his name, and he looks over his shoulder.

“Will you come back to bed?” Sho asks. In the darkness, Jun can’t really make out his face.

Jun finds himself nodding. “After I wash this. Go to sleep.” He bites his bottom lip before saying the next words out. “You’re safe here.”

It’s a repeat of that time he dreamt of drowning while he was in Sho’s house. Jun never imagined he’d be able to say the same words, offer the same reassurance to Sho. If he had it his way, it wouldn’t be like this.

But then again, it was because he wanted to have this way that this happened. Guilt is ever present in him, and he wonders how long can he keep ignoring its existence before he breaks down. He can’t be fragile, can’t afford to be brittle, but the effort to keep it together is taking a toll on him. One of these days, he’s certain he’ll crumble.

He can only hope it doesn’t happen in front of Sho.

--

Sleep is elusive for the rest of the night because thoughts plague Jun like they’re out for blood. If he closes his eyes, he’s afraid he’ll dream and it’ll be about Sho dying in front of him. He’s had too many of those dreams, consisting of people with faces he can recognize lying dead at his feet. Sometimes, he’s the one killing them. When he’s fortunate, the dream is about him ending the life of someone he hates, some figure he used to be terrified of in his youth.

But lately, when he dreams, it’s the face of someone important to him in a pool of their own blood. He’s dreamt of Aiba and Nino before, in different situations but with the same, inevitable outcome. He doesn’t sleep because he doesn’t want the faces to shift to Sho; it’s enough that Sho almost died because of him. The nightmare of it being replayed over and over again is something he wishes he will never see.

So he can only lie there beside Sho in his bed, waiting for himself to be fatigued enough that there’ll be no other choice for him but to sleep. His mind is hyperactive though, full of things he has no desires to hear, but still does because he can’t turn deaf to his own thoughts.

“I had to get gas,” Sho says, successfully cutting him off from his vicious, haunting imaginings.

“What?” Jun turns to him, finds him looking at the ceiling.

Sho simply nods. “The tank was running low on fuel; I had to get gas. I went out of the car to examine the tires when the bullet hit me. I think the only reason they didn’t gun me down is that the people around me panicked. That, or it was deliberate, that they really didn’t want me to die.”

Jun can only listen to him talk, unsure of what else to do.

“But as I was bleeding there, all I could think of is how angry you were at me, how I left you all alone in the house. All I could see was your face, the way you had your fists at your sides. All I kept thinking of as my vision went dark was that you probably never wanted to see me again. And I thought to myself, maybe this was you getting that wish, or maybe this was me getting the proof I wanted that it’s not safe for us to return yet. But I also thought before I closed my eyes, at least—” Sho wets his lips, eyes still fixed on the ceiling, “—at least it wasn’t you.”

There is pride in Sho’s voice, like he’s bragging that he outsmarted whoever was after Jun.

Sho laughs, but it doesn’t sound happy in any way. “That’s stupid, isn’t it? As if a bullet to the side is enough to kill a man. I was panicking, I guess. I haven’t been shot in a long time; I forgot how it felt.” He glances at Jun briefly. “Not recommended, by the way. It hurt like a bitch, and I’m really glad Ogu-san pumped me with enough painkillers that I can’t feel a thing unless I poke it.”

“Ogu-san?” Jun asks, willing his voice not to crack.

“Ah, that’s the guy who patched me up,” Sho says, cracking a smile. “He’s been doing that since I thought of taking back what used to be my dad’s. This isn’t the worst state he’s seen me in, so even if I didn’t see it, he must have thought this one’s just child’s play.”

“I’m sorry,” Jun blurts out, unable to hold it in anymore. He hides his face by looking the other way when Sho faces him. “You were right. It’s not safe for us to go back yet.”

“You said I’m safe here,” Sho says, and Jun feels fingers on his jaw, applying pressure so he’d turn his head in Sho’s direction. “Or were you exaggerating?”

That gets Jun to look at him. “No,” he denies flatly, and he sees Sho grin. Jun gestures to Sho’s mouth his chin. “I’m sorry about the lip.”

“What? Oh.” Sho darts out the tip of his tongue and hisses when it apparently stings just a bit. Sho still manages a quiet chuckle though. “You pack a mean right hook, Matsumoto. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Sho is obviously attempting to lighten the mood, downplay whatever grave thing that has happened, perhaps to make Jun feel less guilty and a little better. Jun doesn’t want any of it. He finds that he would actually prefer it if Sho punched him just to get even.

Jun can’t help reaching out anymore, cradling the side of Sho’s face before closing the distance between them. Sho’s mouth is a little dry, lips a little chapped, but he tastes like something Jun thought he’d lost in a moment of heightened fury. Jun just kisses him, tries to tell him the things he can never voice out in the only way he knows how. Sho turns on his side as he responds eagerly, lips parting as soon as Jun tongues at the crevice, and Jun takes care not to touch his injured side as he settles one hand on Sho’s hip, pulling Sho a little closer to him.

Jun has no concept of himself crying, but he can taste salt while Sho brushes their mouths together. He almost lost this. He can’t shake off the thought, the horrifying truth that he has no time left. Time seemed suspended in that house in the mountains, non-existent as he learned to adjust to his new surroundings.

He feels Sho’s thumbs wiping the corners of his eyes and he shakes his head, bottom lip trembling. “Shh,” Sho says, kissing each of his eyelids. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not,” Jun says, hating himself for not being able to stop the shivers. Everything is coming back, the regret and the guilt clawing at his heart. “It’s not. You wouldn’t have left if I didn’t say those things.”

Sho kisses him quiet, brushes his mouth over his cheeks, the tip of his nose, his forehead. “If I didn’t leave, you would have. And they would have gotten you.”

Jun pulls back a little to shake his head fiercely. He’s hearing the same things from the people around him, people who want to protect him. Why? He doesn’t deserve it. They don’t deserve getting hurt for his sake, and he’s tired of people dear to him taking the bullet or the bomb or the poison that’s meant for him. He’s had enough blood on his hands.

Hasn’t it been enough?

“Don’t say that,” Jun tells him, not looking at him but not shying away from his touch. How much longer can he feel this under his fingers? How much time does he have left in Sho’s company? “Don’t. You’re not supposed to say that.”

“What am I supposed to say?” Sho asks, wiping at his tear-streaked cheek.

“I don’t know,” Jun admits. There are so many things going on and he can’t catch up. There’s a murder plot that mostly concerns him, lurking in the corner and waiting for the opportune moment to strike. The people he keeps close to him have already been endangered in various ways, but that’s not going to be enough for the one who wants to kill him.

“Just…” Jun lets out a shaky breath, chest tightening. “Don’t do that again.”

Sho tilts his face for another kiss as soon as he says that, and it’s all blistering heat as Sho’s tongue finds his. Jun believes it’s his tears they’re tasting as they don’t break apart, even when Sho moves on top of him, bodies aligning. Jun reaches up, buries his fingers in Sho’s hair to keep him as close as possible, knowing their time together is limited.

This, Jun thinks bitterly, knowing it’s true, this isn’t going to last.

No matter how many marks he leaves on Sho’s body, no matter how many times he calls Sho’s name—it won’t matter in the end. Jun can never hold on to something long enough. Whatever it is, it’s bound to disappear from him.

But that doesn’t stop him from holding on as tightly as he can, despite knowing it’s futile. He can delude himself into thinking that maybe, maybe this will work this time. Maybe he can have what he wants for as long as he wants it.

Sho’s mouth moves to his jawline and he tilts his head and loses himself in it. He’ll surrender everything if Sho asks. There’s nothing he won’t willingly hand over, assuming Sho still wants him, even if the cracks in his armor are starting to gape that he can no longer hide them.

He’s not whole nor stable, despite his constant projections that he is.

Despite fumbling blindly, Jun somehow manages to open one of the drawers in his nightstand and grab what he needs. He isn’t able to stop himself from writhing under Sho’s mouth, spreading warmth and familiarity, marking and lingering.

Sure, steady fingers begin to open the buttons of his top, and each patch of skin revealed is touched by Sho’s lips. Jun can only lie back and let it happen, relish in the moment. He guides Sho where he wants him, nails scratching Sho’s scalp. When Sho reaches his navel, Jun twitches away from him and tugs on his hair to make him look up.

He tries to say what he needs, but words fall apart in his mouth. Instead he runs his thumbs on Sho’s cheeks, traces his face with the same fingers that hurt him.

Jun wants to take it all back, repair what he’d undone, but he doesn’t know how.

He takes Sho’s hands in his and guides him to what he wants, and Sho kisses him, slow and sweet, to confirm that he understands. With Sho, Jun finds that he doesn’t need to say much. There must be something that happened in that house in the mountains, something that made Sho so attuned to whatever he projects. Maybe Sho found a way to take his walls down, leave Jun completely bare.

Or maybe—and Jun finds this more believable than the other possibility—, maybe he had no walls to begin with, since it might be him who gradually destroyed them while he was in that house with Sho.

Soon he’s naked and arching against Sho’s slick fingers, his needy moans all he can think of vocalizing. When Sho pushes into him at last, Jun feels something close to relief wash over him in waves. He clings to Sho’s shoulders and moves with him at the same time, cherishing the slight burn. He wants it to hurt more than he wants it to feel good, but since this is Sho, the pain eventually transforms to the pleasure Jun has gotten used to.

Sho spreads his legs wider and that sends him deeper, Jun moaning each time Sho slides back in. He needs Sho closer still, wants all of him under his hands, between his thighs. If he holds on as tightly as he can, clings, he might not need to let anything go, can deceive himself that’s possible.

An unspoken, desperate plea plays again and again in his head like a broken record: don’t do that again. Not for me. Don’t leave me. Each time their bodies come together, he wants to say it, scream it until his voice gives out. He cups Sho’s face and finally chokes, “Don’t die on me.” It comes out as an admission, so unlike him, but Jun’s walls are down, and he’s never felt so vulnerable when he thought this was taken from him for good.

“I’m here,” Sho husks, hips not stilling, meeting Jun halfway. A hand grasps Jun’s face and tilts his face so Sho’s looking right at him. “I’m here, Jun. They didn’t get me.”

Yes, Jun thinks, eyes snapping shut since it’s so good and it’s exactly how he wants it. Yes, he repeats in his head. But for how long? How long is this mine?

A sharp thrust makes him gasp, arms going around Sho, hands reaching down to grab his ass, push him closer despite already meeting him thrust for thrust. Jun wants all of it, every bit that he can have in this moment.

This might be the last time.

Sho makes a growl that comes from his throat, and Jun holds his face and kisses his swollen mouth. “Not yet,” he breathes, wanting this to last longer. He needs the ache his muscles will undoubtedly have to remain for days. “Not yet, not yet.”

“I can’t,” Sho rasps, teeth catching his earlobe and pulling, but he doesn’t stop.

Jun groans, spine curving, and he’s there, he needs—

“Touch me,” he begs, feeling himself so close.

Sho does, and a squeeze is what brings Jun to climax, his pleasure lost in a moan as the world seems to fade under a sea of white. Sho shudders on top of him, mouth resting right on his ear as he groans, hips stuttering as he rides it out.

Sho eases himself out and collapses on the spot beside him, and Jun lets his legs fall back on the bed, breath and heart rate frantic in an uneven rhythm. He’s going to ache in all the right places, the haze of orgasm still present in him. He closes his eyes and sinks into the contentment, wanting to preserve the afterglow.

Jun senses movement, and he snaps his eyes open and sees Sho leaving for the bathroom. Sho always moves first, always tending to him after. When Sho returns, Jun sits up, breath hitching at the sight of his bandages soaking up in fresh blood.

“Fuck,” Jun curses, already reaching for the supplies on his nightstand, “you reopened your stitches.”

Sho glances down at his injury before joining him back on the bed, dabbing a washcloth on his stomach and between his thighs. “Worth it,” Sho says with a lazy, satisfied smile.

Jun smacks him lightly on the head. “Turn around.” Sho does, baring his back to him, showing him the god he hides from most people. “Does it hurt?” he asks guiltily as he undoes the clasps and starts unraveling the stained bandages.

“No. I don’t feel anything,” Sho admits, and he laughs when Jun clicks his tongue. “I don’t think I tore my stitches, so you can relax. I think I only aggravated the wound a bit.”

“A bit?” Jun parrots back, already cleaning off the blood with a piece of gauze with antiseptic. He will have to ask Ohno about the antibiotics in the morning. He presses it to Sho’s side firmly to apply pressure for a moment, clicking his tongue as Sho hisses. “This is ‘a bit’ to you?”

Sho looks over his shoulder. “Well I’m not bleeding to death, am I?”

“You could’ve,” Jun snaps, wiping off the crusted blood once the bleeding has stopped. Perhaps he was merely panicking and exaggerating as a result. Sho was right; he didn’t tear any of his stitches, just made his injury bleed. Jun supposes he is partly responsible for that.

He begins wrapping the bandages, careful not to touch Sho’s side too much to avoid leaving trauma. When he’s done, he checks if the bandaging is secure by tugging on it a little.

Satisfied that it is, he drops a kiss to Sho’s shoulder. “Now go back to sleep.”

“Are you going to boss me around while I remain here?” Sho asks, but he does as Jun asked, settling on his side of the bed. Normally Jun would fuss over the sheets, but he’s honestly drained and all he wants is to curl beside Sho.

“It’s my apartment,” Jun reasons. “I can boss whoever I want.”

He quickly throws the used bandages in the trash bin and settles under the covers, unable to stifle his yawn and pleased sigh when his head hits the cool sheets.

“Remind me to ask Ohno-san about what other medications you need,” Jun mumbles, face already half-buried in the pillows.

Sho snorts. “Trust me, he knows what to do. Go to sleep.”

Jun shuffles closer to where Sho is, and when Sho drops a kiss to his hair, he believes he won’t dream, at least not tonight.

His head stays blissfully silent, and he drifts.

--

Jun wakes up to Ohno and Sho having a conversation outside his room. A quick glance at the digital clock tells him it’s past noon, that he was able to get nearly eight hours of sleep.

He stretches and sighs at his joints popping, then he picks up his discarded pajamas and puts them on. He makes a quick trip to the bathroom to brush his teeth before opening the bedroom door and heading out.

“What part of not doing anything strenuous wasn’t clear to you, Sho-kun?” Ohno is asking, face unamused as Sho nurses a smoothie. Sho’s bandages look freshly replaced. They’re in the kitchen, and Aiba is the one manning the blender, offering Jun a shy smile when Jun meets his eyes.

Jun sighs. Aiba and Ohno definitely heard them.

“You sound like Ogu-san,” Sho retorts, already sipping his smoothie. He’s perched on the kitchen counter, frowning at Ohno.

“And you never listen to him so I know you’re not going to listen to me,” Ohno says. He’s the one cooking right now, calmly mixing ingredients in Jun’s wok.

Jun approaches them while running a hand through his hair, not wanting to look at anyone. He’s not the type to get embarrassed at being overheard while having sex, but he’s not looking forward to Ohno scolding him if ever.

“Fried rice,” Aiba says loudly since the blender’s whirring at a fast speed. He seems to have located Jun’s stock of fresh strawberries in the fridge and found something to do with them. “That’s what Oh-chan is making.”

“Oh-chan?” Jun asks, squeezing himself behind Aiba to find that carton of milk he always drinks after he wakes up. “Did you stay up all night sharing stories?”

“Not as late as you guys did,” Aiba says, then he giggles, not minding at all when Sho throws a look in their direction. “If Nino finds out…”

“Don’t,” Jun snaps, sticking a straw in his milk carton and making his way out of the kitchen. “Don’t you dare tell Nino about it.”

He resolves to wait at the dining table, pulling up a chair while he scrolls through his phone for pressing messages. Most were just updates from Nino, some were reports from his head of security regarding the rotations.

The legs of the nearest chair to him scrapes against the tiles, and Sho plops himself on it. “We need to talk.”

Jun sets his phone down, screen facing the table. He glances behind him and sees Ohno and Aiba still in the kitchen, having a conversation of their own. He looks back at Sho. “It can’t wait until after this late brunch?”

“It can,” Sho says after a moment of consideration, “because what I’m going to propose is up to you entirely.”

That piques Jun’s curiosity, and his eyes narrow in response. The hell it can wait. “All right, talk.”

Sho continues, “They all think I’m dead, all of the other leaders—the young, the old, the men, the women. I had Satoshi-kun whip up a story that I succumbed to my injuries. While they do know you’re back in the city, they don’t know I made it.”

“So what are you saying here?” Jun asks, eyebrows coming together.

“Organize a meeting,” Sho says, eyes alight. “With all the other heads. Maximum security, of course—I can loan some of my men to you for this, no worries—, and allow every head to bring two bodyguards at the most. Figure out who’s the fucker who shot me and tried to kill us both by bringing all the possible targets in one place.”

“You think he’s there? You think he’s one of them?”

“Oh, definitely.” Sho leans back on his chair. “The moment one of them asks regarding my absence, you have your killer. Because as I said—”

“They don’t know you’re alive,” Jun finishes for him. “But what if nobody asks?”

“Well I’m invited either way, so I’m going to show up,” Sho says. “What, you think I’ll miss this one?” He laughs. “I’ll be there, just...not present at the start. Maybe in the middle of it. I can’t resist a grand entrance, not when I’m supposedly out of the picture. They can’t know I survived, or else the target won’t move from me.”

“They could’ve shot you just to get to me,” Jun says. “Ever think of that?”

“And it did get to you, didn’t it?” Sho shakes his head. “If they wanted to taunt you, they succeeded. You’re back. You’re here, and they know. But if you bring the others with you, all these important figures controlling certain parts of the trade and the city...whoever’s trying to murder you will suddenly have too many choices to just singularly focus on you.”

“So they’re the diversion?”

“Something like that.”

Jun ponders on it for a while. “Sounds like a desperate plan to me.”

Sho sighs. “Jun, I’ve been shot. The next bullet might not miss. If that doesn’t call for desperate measures, what else does?” Sho glares at him. “And don’t say you being shot.”

“You got shot because no one was protecting you back then,” Jun points out.

“Still, I’ve been shot, and I’ve got a hole that just narrowly missed my liver and my diaphragm. Either that was calculated or they just have a shit aim. Either way, they won’t stop with me. But we can stop them, if only we can distract them long enough.”

It’s not a bad plan, just...uncharacteristic of Sho. Rash. But doing everything according to his image so far led to him hiding here in Jun’s apartment, so perhaps it’s time for Sho to do something unlike him.

Jun needs someone who can listen to this plan and tell him the holes in it that he can’t see.

He picks up his phone and calls Nino, telling him to come straight away.

--

Nino listens to the plan without saying anything, shoving spoonfuls of fried rice in his mouth as Jun talks. Sho doesn’t supplement anything, sipping his miso quietly. It’s a strange occurrence to Jun, having four other men sharing his table and eating while he does the talking. Usually when he eats with somebody else, they’re either private dinners or extravagant affairs he really can do without.

“Thoughts?” Jun asks, when he’s done talking and Nino is still not saying anything. His question is directed mostly to Nino, but if Aiba has anything to say, Jun wants to hear it too.

“You thought this all up on your own?” Nino asks, but he gives Sho a sideways glance.

“No,” Jun replies, not opting to elaborate.

“It’s too risky,” Nino says, looking straight at Jun. “Two bodyguards at most? That’s me, Aiba-shi or probably Nagase-kun going with you, but that’s it. We’ll of course have the meeting place surrounded, but if the mastermind is really one of these heads—just as you implied—, there’s no stopping them from shooting you the moment they see an opening.”

“That’s what my security is for,” Jun starts to say, but Nino still looks disapproving.

“We’re talking about eleven leaders here. That’s counting Sakurai-san in. Minus the two of you, we have nine suspects. And I can guarantee that those nine are also suspecting you, since Reizei is dead and Sakurai-san’s reportedly dead, who, by the way, went missing the same time as you did. And he, according to the story, died just as when you came back to the city.” Nino has his tongue against his cheek. “It’s too risky. What’s saying they will agree to meet up with you? They’re all going to think you’re the one who wants to kill them.”

“Not if Satoshi-kun is the one who organizes it under my name,” Sho says, stroking his chin. “I said it’s up to Jun, yes, because if they find out that he’s attending—the primary suspect of my supposed murder—, they’re all going to think there’s a much bigger threat out there.” Sho glances at him. “My apologies if that offended you.”

Jun waves his hand in dismissal and says nothing.

“I don’t like it,” Nino declares, crossing his arms over his chest. “The last time I tried to keep you safe, both of you at that, you found a way to attract danger. Now I’m doing all I can to keep this apartment the safest place for you guys to be, and again you came up with something to mess that up.”

“I can’t keep hiding forever, Nino,” Jun says, jaw set. “I can’t stay cooped up here. My killer knows we’re here. Eventually he’s going to find a way to get in. Maybe a pizza delivery or as a fake plumber, who knows? We have to find him before he finds us.”

Ohno, who’s been picking his nose with his pinky all this time, finally clears his throat. “I think it can work, but only if I talk to Sho-kun’s closest allies first. They want to avenge him. If I say I’m acting on Sho-kun’s orders, they’re in.” This earns Sho’s confident nod. “Unfortunately, that also puts Matsumoto-san in danger.”

“And that’s the part I don’t like,” Nino snaps. “I’m sure you can get them all to come, Ohno-san. But if Jun-kun is going there to be gunned down, I’m not going to let that happen.”

Ohno turns to Jun, and Jun shoots him a questioning look.

“Then,” Ohno says, giving Jun a small bow, “what if Matsumoto-san comes with me to talk to them?”

Sho doesn’t say anything, but Jun can see him hiding a smile behind the back of his hand. Nino, meanwhile, is glaring at Ohno, and Aiba is frowning despite not contributing a single word to the conversation.

“They will kill him!” Nino hollers, slamming his palm down the table. “If you take him with you to meet your closest allies, they will shoot him the moment they see him!”

“They won’t,” Sho says, and Nino turns his glare towards him. “They won’t if they see Satoshi-kun with him. You underestimate Satoshi-kun’s reputation as my right-hand man.”

“If not them, then maybe the guy who’s targeting him all along?” Aiba asks, obviously taking Nino’s side. “Once you start organizing this meeting, you’ll be out in the open, Mattsun. They can kill you anytime.”

Jun knows that, but is there anything else they can do? Nino is repeatedly shaking his head at him, Aiba is pleading with eyes, Ohno is merely waiting for a response, and Sho—

Sho is watching him.

“I have to risk it,” Jun says, closing his eyes when he hears Nino and Aiba’s immediate protests. He holds up a hand to silence their concerns. “I can’t stay hidden. This meeting has to happen if we want to preserve each business and territory. There’s...a much bigger threat than me—” Sho nods at that, “—and all I have to do is make them realize it.”

“Then at least take me with you,” Nino says. “Or Aiba-shi. Don’t...don’t go alone.”

“Is that your lack of faith in Jun or in Satoshi, Ninomiya-san?” Sho asks, smiling a little.

Nino glares at him once more. “I don’t trust anyone, Sakurai-san.”

Sho hums. “Not even when we organize this meeting in a neutral territory?” He smirks when Nino frowns at that. “I failed to mention that. Satoshi-kun is going to talk to each of them in a neutral territory.”

“The port,” Nino says, just as it dawns on Jun.

“Yes, the port. With me ‘dead’,—” Sho makes air quotes to emphasize the term, “—that makes the port a neutral territory since all the heads come to me whenever they need to use it. Since I’m dead, technically, no one owns it. They will think I’m dividing my assets to my allies. You know the rules of port use, yes?”

“No drawing of weapons of any kind,” Nino says, indulging him. Sho forbade the use of weapons since the bloodbath that occurred at one time. Nino still doesn’t lose his scowl, however. “You think they’ll honor that with you dead?”

“I think they will,” Sho says, brimming with confidence. “I’ve made a name for myself, Ninomiya-san. A reputation. Combine the two and they go far.”

Nino turns to Jun. “You’ve decided on this?”

Jun doesn’t know what else they can do. They don’t have time. “I am,” he says, hoping Nino doesn’t read between the lines.

Nino faces Sho. After a few moments of staring each other down, Nino straightens in his seat.

“If Jun-kun dies,” Nino says seriously, “I will kill you.”

“Fair enough.” Sho smiles. “A life for a life.” He looks at Ohno. “Something you can work with, Satoshi-kun?”

Ohno only nods, already standing up. Then he blinks. “I’d get moving but I don’t know how to drive.” Sho smiles at that. “Aiba-chan, would you mind? I think it will placate Nino if I let you see exactly what I’m going to do to make this happen.”

Aiba glances at Jun for permission, and Jun gives it with a nod. “Not at all.”

They leave together, and soon, it’s only the three of them left in Jun’s apartment. Nino is still staring daggers at Sho, and Sho eventually laughs.

“May I use your bath?” Sho asks Jun. “I won’t bleed to death all over your floor tiles, I promise.”

Jun rolls his eyes. “Go get cleaned already.”

As soon as they hear the bathroom door close, Nino gives Jun this knowing look that unsettles him.

“Out with it,” Jun says, not wishing to prolong this.

“He’s a liability,” Nino tells him, gesturing to the direction of the bathroom. “If everything goes according to plan, you can’t have this relationship with him. You can’t have him around you. You know this. If word goes out that you’re involved together, it can jeopardize the plan. Whoever’s after you already made a move on him.”

“So what are you telling me?” Jun asks, despite knowing exactly what Nino means. “What are you asking me to do this time, Nino?”

“Cut it loose,” Nino says, frank as ever. “Let him go. You can’t be attached to him, Jun-kun, you can’t. Not with all this craziness that’s currently going on. If he’s as smart as he makes me believe, he knows this himself. You either do it first or he’s going to do it to you. You’re both risks to each other as long as there’s someone who wants the both of you dead.”

Jun schools his features to nonchalance, giving Nino an impassive look. Nino is right, of course. Nino is hardly wrong when it comes to these things; it’s why Jun needs him around. But Nino is asking for something he wasn’t planning on addressing so soon. It’s always been there, but Jun was putting it on the back of his mind until the moment comes that he has no choice but to face it.

He needs a smoke. And perhaps a strong drink.

He leaves Nino to find these items, and when he takes the first inhale of nicotine, instead of the cigarette eliciting the comforting effect it usually has on him, he feels like it’s him who’s burning and not the roll of tobacco trapped between his fingers.

Whatever he chooses to do, he’ll end up in ashes.



Follow the link for part 8

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